CYLDE – John Cahill tried to downplay his return to the school where he taught and coached for over two decades.
But his Little Giants weren’t having it.
Wanting desperately to win in their coach’s Clyde homecoming, the Ross boys basketball team put together one of its best performances of the season – and Bryce Root scored a career-high 31 points – as the Little Giants won a thriller over the Fliers, 64-60.
“Coach was acting like it wasn’t huge, but it was huge for him,” Root said. “I was going to win this game for him, I wanted to, we all wanted to. We got it done.”
For Cahill, who coached the Lady Fliers for 23 seasons, the last 18 as head coach, compiled a record of 315-103 with six league titles and a pair of state Final Four appearances, being the visitor in the gym he spent so many years was a unique experience.
“It was weird,” Cahill said. “I coached here for a quarter-century. It’s where my oldest daughter played all her games, I had most of the kids on the other team in class. I grew up in Fremont, my family and I are 100 percent committed to Fremont, but this was home for a long, long time. It was weird game for me personally, but I thought our kids played really well tonight.”
The Little Giants and Fliers changed the lead 20 times throughout the night – 15 times in the second half – along with seven ties, including four in the fourth quarter. The last of those ties came at 60-60 with under a minute to play.
Jabryis Heidelburg drove the lane looking to hit to go-ahead layup. When his shot missed the mark, Clyde grabbed the rebound. Heidelburg, however, dove at the ball, prying it loose. He recovered the loose ball and kicked it out to Root at the free throw line who drained a jumper for the 62-60 lead.
“After I missed that layup, I had to get it back, I had to make up for air-balling that layup – that was bad,” Heidelburg said. “So, I looked up and I saw him there and I said, ‘Oh, here’s my chance to make it up right here.’”
In addition to the game’s biggest assist, Heidelburg scored seven points and did a fantastic job running the offense which showed outstanding patience for getting quality shots.
“He really kept us in really good flow,” Cahill said. “He’s not scoring like he did but he’s a point guard that I’m proud to put out there because he’s not forcing, he’s taking care of the ball and he’s defending and a lot of credit goes to him. (Bryce) McKinstry, the same thing: he’s taking better shots. Hayden Lehmann apologized for the one three(-pointer) he missed, all game he shot the ball well. They’re getting it.”
After making the jumper to take the lead, Root iced the game with a pair of free throws with 16.9 seconds to play, giving the Little Giants a two-possession lead. Despite the pressure of the free throws, Root was all-confidence at the line, capping off his career-night with 31 points.
“I knew I was going to make them. Never a doubt,” Root said. “I always know I’m going to make free throws.”
“Bryce is a scorer and he’s talented and tonight he showed it,” Cahill said. “…He defended, he rebounded, and he did more than just look for a shot. I thought he also had a couple really nice passes. He’s becoming more of a complete player, which we need him to be.”
Cahill also joked that Root reminds him of another player.
“I like Bryce, I call him a poor man’s John Cahill,” he cracked. “He does a lot of stuff that I do, just not as well.”
It’s jokes like that which made Cahill’s players so determined to get their coach the victory in his Clyde homecoming.
“It’s The John Cahill,” said McKinstry, who scored 14 points. “He brags about himself a lot. He hypes himself up, so we couldn’t lose and have him not be able to show his face in Clyde. Wo we had to take the win.”
The Little Giants (3-13 overall) hos TRAC rival Findlay on Tuesday.
Fremont Ross 64, Clyde 60
FR| 15—19—18—12 64
C | 20—12—20—8 60
FREMONT ROSS (64)
Hayden Lehmann 10, Jabryis Heidelburg 7, Ben Gedeon 3, Bryce Root 31, Bryce McKinstry 14.
Camaron Farrar 17, Brock Newsome 2, Will Dowling 19, James Dry 2, Derick Harrah10, Jack Morrison 10.